15 Best Sociology Books for Students & Sociologists

Sociology is the academic study of human society from diverse points of view—economic, political, psychological, religious and, most importantly, social. In this sense, “social” is used as a term of art to refer to the different structures that organize individuals into a cohesive community.

Sociology investigates how groups interact, construct more or less complex social structures, and adapt to shifting conditions. It allows us to understand better the social forces that shape human behavior. After learning sociology, you will be better equipped to handle various life situations. The best way to learn sociology is, of course, to read about it from experts.

Whether you are trying to find the best sociology books of all time or looking for new ones to add to your collection, there are several books available for you to read. They come in the form of traditional textbooks as well as more standard reading.

In this article, I have listed some of the best sociology books to get you through your studies and develop an interest in the subject.

Best Sociology Books

individual, people, magnifying glass, Best Sociology Books

Sociology encompasses a range of topics, from social movements and family dynamics to economic structures and global communication. With so many topics to explore, it can be difficult to decide which books are essential reads for any student or enthusiast of sociology. To help guide you in the right direction, we have compiled a list of the best sociology books to help you gain insight into the complexities of human society.

Let us look at my picks for the 15 best sociology books below to understand better how social forces operate and create fortune or misfortune.

The Sociological Imagination

Author – C. Wright Mills

The Sociological Imagination is the most highly acclaimed work of author C. Wright Mills. In this book, he put forth his views on how social science should be pursued. He famously took issue with the ascendant schools of sociology in the United States and called for a humanist sociology connecting the social, personal, and historical dimensions of people’s lives.

The sociological imagination that Mills called for is a sociological vision – a way of looking at the world that can see links between the individual's personal problems and crucial social issues. Upon its publication, the book was hailed as a persuasive and thought-provoking critique.


Author – Pierre Bourdieu

First published in 1979, Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction vividly illuminates the social pretensions of the middle classes in the modern world, concentrating on the preferences and tastes of the French bourgeoisie. The book serves as a vast ethnography of contemporary France and a meticulous dissection of the bourgeois mind. 

In everyday life, people continuously choose between what they find aesthetically pleasing and what they consider merely trendy, tacky, or ugly. Bourdieu demonstrates that taste is not pure, and the different aesthetic choices we make are all distinctions - choices made in opposition to the ones made by other classes. He argues that the social world functions simultaneously as a system of power relations and a symbolic system in which seemingly minor distinctions of taste become the basis for social justice.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Author – Erving Goffman

When it comes to better understanding ourselves, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is one of the most significant contributions available today. In this book, author Erving Goffman explores human behavior in various social situations and how we appear to others. The book uses theatrical performance as a framework to explain how knowledge of everyday social intercourse can help us control the impressions that others form about us.

After reading the book, you will understand the techniques you can employ to sustain a particular performance, much like an actor with an audience. The author's different social techniques in the book are based upon detailed sociological research and diverse cultural customs worldwide.

The Social Construction of Reality

Author – Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann

The Social Construction of Reality was hailed as the "fifth-most important sociological book of the 20th century" by the International Sociological Association. It is a revolutionary source of knowledge that introduces the concept of social construction into the social sciences for the first time. In the book, authors Berger and Luckmann have focused on the sociological subdiscipline known as the sociology of knowledge.

The book is a treatise on the sociology of knowledge and examines how knowledge forms and is both altered and preserved within a society. The authors go beyond intellectual history and focus on common sense and everyday knowledge. They show that the proverbs, morals, and beliefs held by most people can teach us a lot about the human condition and our interactions with each other.

Suicide: A Study in Sociology

Author – Emile Durkheim

There wouldn’t be any need for sociology if everyone understood the social frameworks we operate. However, we do connect to the larger picture, thanks to author Emile Durkheim – one of the world’s most influential sociologists. If anything can explain how individuals react and relate to society, it is called suicide. The question is, why does it happen? What exactly goes wrong in those cases? Why do we observe it more commonly in some places than others?

In Suicide: A Study of Sociology, Durkheim explains how we can use suicide to refine our approach to sociology and better understand humans from this largely misunderstood act. He argues that the main reason for suicide is a lack of integration of the individual into society. The book helps readers understand the impetus for suicide and its psychological impact on the victim, their family, and society.


Author – Malcolm Gladwell

In Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell takes the reader on a riveting journey through the world of "outliers" - the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful people worldwide. He explains what makes high achievers different from others. Not only does he provide valuable advice and wisdom, but he backs them up with evidence of those who have lived the most meaningful lives.

According to Gladwell, people pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their family, their generation, their culture, and their upbringing. Along the way, he explains what it takes to be an exceptional soccer player, what made The Beatles the greatest rock band ever, the secrets of software billionaires, and how you can apply the knowledge of successful humans to your life.

Bowling Alone

Author – Robert D. Putnam

Twenty years ago, author Robert D. Putnam observed that Americans no longer bowled in leagues after work like they usually did. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolized a significant social change that became the basis of the acclaimed bestseller – Bowling Alone. The book closely looked at Americans’ changing behavior over the decades, showing how they had become increasingly disconnected from their family, friends, neighbors, and social structures due to the PTA, church, clubs, political parties, or bowling leagues.

In the revised edition of his classic work, Putnam shows how Americans’ diminishing access to the “social capital” of communal activity and community sharing still poses a serious threat to their civic and personal health. He also explains the pervasive influence of social media and the internet, which has introduced new opportunities for both social connection and isolation.

The Rules of Sociological Method

Author – Emile Durkheim

The Rules of Sociological Method is a comprehensive work on the nature and scope of sociology.  Author Emile Durkheim strongly argues for sociology's scientific, objective, and methodological underpinnings as a discipline and establishes guiding principles for future research. The latest edition features a substantial new introduction by leading Durkheim scholar Steven Lukes explains and sets Durkheim’s arguments into context.

Lukes discusses the still-controversial debates about The Rules of Sociological Method’s six chapters and their relevance to modern sociology. The edition also includes Durkheim’s subsequent thoughts on the method in articles, letters, and debates with scholars from other disciplines. The book helps students deepen their understanding of one of the pioneering voices in modern sociology and twentieth-century social thought.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Author – Matthew Desmond

Evicted is one of the most acclaimed works on modern sociology and has set a new standard for reporting on poverty. In the book Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they work hard to keep a roof over their heads. From abandoned slums to shelters, the author spent his life recording the stories of those who struggle to survive.

Praised as “wrenching and revelatory” (The Nation), “vivid and unsettling” (New York Review of Books), the book changes our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of the most devastating problems of twenty-first-century America. Moreover, its striking scenes of hope and loss remind readers of the importance of one of the most basic human rights: shelter, without which everything else is impossible.

Economy and Society

Author – Max Weber

Max Weber’s Economy and Society is one of the foundational texts for the social sciences of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It presents a framework for understanding the relations among economic action, economic institutions, individual action, and social action. It also classifies political forms based upon “systems of rule” and “rulership,” which has led to debates about the nature and role of bureaucracy, charisma, legal authority, and tradition.

Keith Tribe’s new translation presents Economy and Society in its original form – with three complete chapters and a fragment of a fourth. Being one of the English-speaking world’s leading experts on Weber’s thought, Tribe has produced a clear and faithful translation that balances readability with accuracy. In addition, he included an extensive introduction and commentary that reflect the new Weber scholarship of the past few decades.

The Tipping Point

Author – Malcolm Gladwell

The tipping point is that particular magic moment when a trend, idea, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Like a single sick person can begin an epidemic of the flu, a small but precisely targeted push can trigger the worldwide popularity of a new product, a fashion trend, or a drop in the crime rate.

In this widely acclaimed bestseller, author Malcolm Gladwell discusses and expertly illustrates how the tipping point phenomenon is already changing how people globally think about selling products and disseminating ideas. The book is a terrific page-turner about a fascinating concept that will inevitably affect how every thinking person looks at the world.

Nickel and Dimed 

Author – Barbara Ehrenreich

In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich was inspired by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform which promised that a job—any job— could lead to a better life. However, is it possible to even survive on $6 an hour? To find out, she left her home, took the cheapest lodgings available, and accepted whatever jobs she could find. Nickel and Dimed chronicles her journey and what she learned along the way.

The book reveals low-rent America in all its anxiety, tenacity, and surprising generosity. Ehrenreich provides a unique perspective and rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. In a new foreword, Matthew Desmond – the author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City – explains why, 24 years since its publication, Nickel and Dimed is more relevant than ever.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Author – Yuval Noah Harari

Most books about the history of humanity go for either a historical or a biological approach. However, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari takes a new route with this highly original book that starts about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role of evolving humans in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, the book combines history and science to connect past developments with contemporary concerns, reconsider accepted narratives, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari encourages the reader to look ahead because, over the last few decades, humans have started to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. This thought-provoking and insightful book is certain to ignite debates among thinkers, featuring 27 photographs, 25 illustrations/diagrams, and six maps.


Author – Susan Cain

Almost one-third of the people we know are introverts who prefer listening to speaking. They innovate and create but don’t like self-promotion. We owe many of the significant contributions to society to introverts such as Chopin, Rosa Parks, Dr. Seuss, and Steve Wozniak.

In Quiet, author Susan Cain argues that we greatly undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and discusses how deeply it has permeated our culture. Impressively argued, well-researched, and filled with inspiring stories of real people, the book can permanently change how we see introverts and, most importantly, how they see themselves.

Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies

Author – Charles Perrow

Author Charles Perrow (1925–2019) taught sociology at Yale and Stanford. In this book, he explains that disastrous failures of high-risk, complex technological systems are not necessarily anyone’s fault but are often inevitable due to the inherent limitations of our ability to understand, anticipate, and perfectly control such systems.

Perrow refers to accidents resulting from the inherent nature of high-risk, complex technological systems as “normal accidents.” More specifically, he claims that normal accidents occur in complex, tightly coupled systems with catastrophic potential. He examines various case studies, such as the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident, and concludes that such accidents are “unexpected, incomprehensible, uncontrollable and unavoidable.”

Reading these Books

Sociology is a broad subject that encompasses almost all aspects of the social dimension of human existence. It is arguably the greatest method among all the social sciences because of how relevant it is to many of the issues the modern world faces. The books I have listed in this article will help you better understand how social trends begin, how communities affect happiness, and how social norms prevail.

Last update on 2024-07-14 using Amazon Product Advertising API.